The new film The End of the Tour is a biopic of the last days of the book tour for David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest and the 5-day interview of him conducted by writer David Lipsky. In 2008, author David Foster Wallace committed suicide. As the film opens, writer David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) has just heard the news of Wallace’s death and proceeds to dig through a closet to find a series of tapes from the aforementioned interview he did with Wallace for Rolling Stone Magazine. The film winds through the memories of a friendship formed through a whirlwind trip through a few major cities with David Foster Wallace (Jason Siegel) and the difficulties of become a celebrity overnight, when all one wants to do is be left alone.
Jason Segel is quietly brilliant as David Foster Wallace. He manages to capture the self-deprecation and inner torment of a man who was not expecting Infinite Jest to be a best-seller. The film captures this in small details, even to the guest room filled with unsold books and the strange comfort Segel shows interacting with animals but not the company of other human beings. Having only seen Segel in humorous roles before, I was deeply impressed with his range in The End of the Tour. Jesse Eisenberg is a perfect fit for David Lipsky’s fear of being overshadowed and desire to be recognized as an intelligent mind, even as he has tasked himself with unraveling a brilliant mind for an article. Both actors are careful to walk the line of interviewer and interviewee, even as the lines begin to blur of who is which during their adventure.
The film works very hard to capture the tiny details of 1996, when the film is set. Costumes are well done and even posters in a scene with a movie theater are carefully placed to capture the feeling of the era. For a kid who grew up during the 1990’s, it’s a little strange to see my childhood presented with such careful nostalgia.
The End of the Tour will strike a chord with viewers who have suffered from depression or are currently fighting through it. Much of the dialogue of the film is directly lifted from the interview tapes from which the film is based. Subtle statements show the difficulties David Foster Wallace was having, and sadly foreshadow his eventual death.
The End of the Tour is depressingly beautiful and filled with lines that will haunt the viewer long after the film has ended. The film is in theaters today.